County, other defendants split on mediation with DA

CDT photo

There is no consensus on whether the Centre County district attorney’s lawsuit against the county and a long list of others will end in mediation.

On Monday, Stacy Parks Miller’s attorney Bruce Castor argued her side of the case dismissed by federal Judge Matthew Brann in front of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Pittsburgh. Several lawyers for the list of defendants also took their turn before U.S. judges Jane Roth, D. Michael Fisher and Thomas Hardiman.

DA Parks Miller is suing for defamation and other charges related to the 2015 allegations that she forged Judge Pamela Ruest’s signature on a fake bail order. The allegations were brought up at a county commissioners meeting and subsequently prompted an investigation by the Office of the Attorney General that ended with the announcement of grand jury results that resulted in no charges against the district attorney.

Parks Miller has said the incident was politically motivated and claimed it damaged her reputation. Castor noted defendant Bernie Cantorna’s victory in this month’s primary in court, which Parks Miller said was done to prove damage.

“That statement about the election only matters because damages have changed drastically since I lost my job due to their fake actions,” she said in an email to the Centre Daily Times. “They now include those lost wages and future earnings that would have been available to me if they all had not lied and misled the public about the fake forgery claims and other things to knock me out of (office) on lies. The importance of the statement was that the very person who brought up the false claim kicking it all off was indeed my only challenger in the election. This was not lost on the court.”

The judges challenged several of the arguments on both sides. While Castor hammered at Ruest’s claim that she did not remember signing the bail order as a lie that was proven false by the grand jury, at least one judge countered.

“If she didn’t remember, and in fact, that is her recollection, it’s not an untruth to tell a detective that you don’t remember,” he said.

There was also push-back on Castor’s claim that Parks Miller was found innocent by the grand jury.

“I’m not so sure that’s an accurate statement … It seems to me that what the grand jury did was choose not to file any charges against your client,” a judge said.

Ruest’s attorney, Michael Daley, was pressed when he said that the situation was covered by her role as a judge, with the court asking if this was an admission of the signature.

“I’m assuming for sake of argument,” Daley clarified.

The court also questioned the time lapse between Parks Miller’s paralegal Michelle Shutt leaving her employment with the DA’s office and the affidavit she signed regarding the allegations after she began work for attorney Philip Masorti, another defendant. Shutt worked for another employer between the two.

“This was a hearing to reverse the prior judge’s dismissal. We feel very happy about the argument. In fact, the judges suggested mediation to (try) and resolve it before a trial,” Parks Miller said in her email.

But on Wednesday, Centre County’s attorney, Mary Lou Maierhofer, filed a letter with the court saying that may not happen.

“Counsel for all parties conferred with their clients regarding their willingness to mediate this matter under the auspices of the Third Circuit’s mediation program. I am writing to report that there is no unanimity regarding mediation,” she wrote.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce